Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits
It is a simple – although often overlooked – fact that most people in the US are obese because they are insulin resistant. It is true that we live in a society that constantly overeats, but the rising rates of obesity are primarily due to the fact our bodies simply cannot process and metabolize the high amounts of unhealthy carbohydrates we eat. (I use the term “we” very loosely.) If weight loss were a simple math equation where weight loss occurrs if more calories were burned than were eaten, obesity would not be an epidemic. The simple fact is that our society subsists on foods laden with low-quality, high-glycemic carbs. The Standard American Diet (which I like to refer to as the “SAD”) creates metabolic imbalances that cause weight gain. If losing weight has been a problem for you, please read my article, The Top 7 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight for more information on the potential physical reasons that prevent weight loss. I promise to share more about battling insulin resistance in future posts. For today, let’s simply acknowledge that insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Eating excess carbs causes your body to secrete high amounts of insulin, which causes the body to produce and store fat instead of burning it for energy. When people eat high amounts of foods requiring the body to produce large amounts of insulin, their cells may eventually become “overwhelmed” with the constant flow of insulin. Cells which are overwhelmed with insulin will protect themselves by not absorbing and using the insulin. The excess insulin in the blood stream causes the body to store even more fat. This is what is commonly referred to as “Insulin Resistance.” If someone has even low levels of insulin resistance, it means their body does not use the insulin their body produces. This causes their body to produce higher amounts of insulin to try to lower blood sugars, which causes worse insulin resistance and increased weight gain. The solution to this problem is to reduce the amount of insulin being produced. The most direct way of allowing the body to produce less insulin is to pay close attention to the types and quantities of carbohydrates eaten. Please note that in this blog post, I use the word “carbs” to refer to simple carbohydrates your body metabolizes into simple sugars. Foods that fit this category include breads, cookies, rice, juices, candy, desserts, donuts, pastas, processed grains, etc. I am not referring to vegetables. Fruits are natural, but must be treated respectfully when dealing with insulin resistance. Some fruits elevate blood sugar very rapidly and require high amounts of insulin, which can contribute to weight gain for some people. The simplest – although not complete – approach to weight loss involves eating fewer carbohydrates. Following are simple tips to help cut the carbs without losing nutrition:
Substitute lettuce or kale wraps for bread
Not all bread is bad, but it is ALL extremely high in glycemic impact. High glycemic foods rapidly raise blood sugars and require large amounts of insulin. It is a very sad truth that almost all gluten free grains (with the exception of quinoa and millet) have a higher glycemic impact than wheat and require more insulin to be metabolized. This explains why some people experience extreme weight gain when going gluten-free. (Some people lose weight, but the incidence of people gaining weight after going gluten-free is rising rapidly.) Eating a grain-free diet is ideal for a variety of reasons, but most people have such a strong emotional attachment to grains that eliminating them completely seems impossible. Wrapping your sandwich ingredients in lettuce or kale may take some adjusting, but it’s a great option and the lettuce requires zero insulin.
Be extremely careful with portion sizes
People from Europe are often astonished at how much food people in the US eat at every meal. Europeans eat to live, whereas people in the US live to eat. Europeans eat extremely small (aka: NORMAL) portion sizes and don’t snack as often as we do. In the US, we supersize everything … especially portions. Here’s a quick run down of recommended portion sizes of popular carbs:
- Rice: 1/2 cup (Yes, seriously.)
- Pasta: 1 cup
- Grapes: 10
- Beans and Lentils: 1/2 cup
- French Fries: 10 (I’m not kidding. Probably best to skip this one.)
- Dairy: 1 cup (Dairy counts as a carbohydrate serving, even though it contains protein.)
Start every meal with a salad or big bowl of veggies
Filling up on veggies before attacking the other items on your plate often leads to eating fewer carbohydrates. It is also a very easy way to increase your consumption of veggies, and you know you need more.
Eat veggies first, protein next, then carbs
The order you eat foods can affect how much of it you eat. Again, filling up on veggies first and then eating your protein will leave less room in your stomach for the carbohydrate on your plate.
Stick to one carb per meal
You don’t need more than one carb serving per meal. Trust me. The simple act of limiting yourself to one carb serving per meal will often create rapid weight loss. It also eliminates the “3 o’clock slump” many people experience when their blood sugar plummets after a high-carb lunch.
Think about breakfast in a new way
The dietary surveys I use with my patients reveal that most people eat 3-5 servings of carbs and no protein every morning before they leave the house. I’m not sure why we associate carbs with breakfast, but we need protein and healthy fats to boost energy and keep us going until lunch. A typical breakfast I see listed includes three or more of the following: bowl of cereal or oatmeal, banana on the cereal, toast, pancakes/waffles, glass of orange juice, fruit smoothie, etc., etc. Mega carbs and zero protein or fats. This creates a syndrome where your blood sugar skyrockets after breakfast, but plummets a few hours later. This can make you hungry and may make you crave sugar around 10 am. Adding protein to your morning regimen can make a huge difference in how you feel mid-morning and right before lunch. Combining protein with healthy carbohydrates for breakfast helps stabilize blood sugars. Having a huge veggie omelet with a single piece of toast is a great option. I know one lady who has guacamole on zucchini slices with a slice of turkey most mornings. She feels great and has lost 10 pounds doing this. For more creative low carb breakfast ideas, read Top 11 Low Carb Breakfasts. Other great breakfast options include:
- An apple with almond butter
- 1 cup of berries in a smoothie with an avocado, handful of spinach and a cucumber
- 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal with 1/2 cup nuts and seeds and 1/2 cup almond milk
- Two eggs and 1/2 cup of mixed berries.
Let yourself think outside of the box and stop eating nothing but carbohydrates for breakfast … you’ll feel and look better as a result. Are you eating to live or living to eat? What changes can you make to help you make better choices at every meal? I wish you luck and success!
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